This report led to a lengthy discussion among the seminar participants, including lots of advice for Donna about how to regain her health. Donna was also dealing with a weight issue, which elicited plentiful recommendations from the group.
As I listened, I was uncomfortable with the general tone of the conversation. Everyone meant well, but the general theme of the talk was, “There’s a lot wrong with you, and we are going to tell you how to fix it.”
When Donna stepped away from the group, I invited her aside for a moment. I took her hands, looked her in the eyes, and told her, “I love you just the way you are. I know there are things you are working on, but right now I find you perfect and I appreciate all you are and all you do for me and others.”
Tears welled up in Donna’s eyes and she let her head fall onto my shoulder. I held her as she let loose the pain of feeling that there were so many things wrong with her, and she could not be whole or happy until she fixed them. After a minute or two she felt better.
I was not suggesting to Donna that she overlook any conditions that were causing her pain, or that she should not make an effort to improve her health and feel better. I was simply affirming Donna’s beauty, wholeness, and worth even as she walked her healing journey.
You and I live two lives simultaneously. At one level we perceive that we have needs, deficits, and issues to be handled, and we strive to improve ourselves and set disorders or imbalances right. At the same time we live in a deeper world in which we are whole, complete, well, and perfect as God created us. On a spiritual level there is nothing wrong with us, there never has been, and there never will be. Only in a world of illusion do we identify ourselves as separate, wounded, broken, pained, and striving. In truth we have already arrived at where we wish to go. The game of life is not about getting somewhere; it is about discovering that we already are somewhere.
Perfection is not condition to be attained. It is a reality to be accepted. The sage Swami Satchidananda declared, “We started out fine. Then we got de-fined. Now we are getting re-fined.”
One of my coaching clients reported, “I feel so overwhelmed with all the work I need to do on myself. I doubt I could ever accomplish it all in one lifetime.” I suggested to her, “Can you imagine even for a moment that you don’t need to work on yourself? What would it feel like to know that you are not here to fix what is broken about you? Can you visualize your life as an adventure of creativity, joy, and self-expression instead of striving to get somewhere or get it right?”
After a few moments’ consideration, a wide smile grew on the woman’s face. “Wow!” she exclaimed. “I never thought of my life like that. I was taught that life is a struggle and I’d better get myself together to avoid disaster. I think I just had a taste of freedom!”
Ariel and Shya Kane have authored a book entitled, Working on Yourself Doesn’t Work. The title says it all! The moment you start to work on yourself, you have adopted the identity of the “you” that needs to be worked on. You cannot get to wholeness by denying your wholeness. You get to wholeness by accepting it.
Claiming wholeness does not mean that you sit in a cave and do nothing. You can be quite involved in the world, immersed in meaningful activity, and seeking to make life more rewarding for yourself and others. The issue is not what you are doing; the issue is why and how you are doing it. If you believe you are empty and need to be filled in, you set yourself up to lose. If you regard yourself as basically sound and you would like to expand your experience of good, you set yourself up to win. You are not a black hole that needs to be filled. You are a light that needs to be shined.
I saw a marvelous bumper sticker: The more you know, the less you need. Take this statement to its logical extreme: When you know nothing, you need everything. When you know everything, you need nothing. The only real knowledge is who you really are – a spiritual being created in the image and likeness of a loving God. If you know that, everything you do will honor the wisdom and beauty you already own.